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The Accidental Power of The Web

by Doug Davidoff | Apr 24, 2008 10:02:46 AM

Too many websites miss out on the demand creation potential of the web - thus contributing to their own commoditization.  One of the smartest (and wisest) pieces of advice I ever received from a coach of mine was, “Doug, remember that everybody wakes up in the morning with one goal in mind – to get through the day without meeting you.” While he was certainly being facetious (maybe), there is a lot of truth in the statement.

People go through life pursuing their objectives and not considering yours.

What does this have to do with websites, you may ask. Quite a lot. I’ve been involved in several projects reviewing websites and working with my clients in the creation of new ones. The biggest "intent" mistake that I see with websites everyday is that they are designed almost exclusively for those people that are going to your website on purpose.

The problem with this approach is that you are only communicating with people who already know who you are, believe they know what you do, and believe they know how they may need to use you. There is certainly value in this function, but the hidden (and real) value of the web lies in those people who “accidentally” find your website.

The web is a powerful “answer” mechanism. People regularly search for answers to their questions, or (dare I say) solutions to their problems. (Side comment – when I say solutions, I DO NOT mean products/services/ offerings posing as solutions – I mean the intelligence and knowledge of HOW to solve their problems.) Now understand when your prospect is searching the web they are not “looking” for your website – nor are they looking for your services. They’re looking for – well – whatever it is that they are looking for.

In my experience, you need to keep three things in mind if you want to make the accidental visitor a repeat visitor – and eventually a customer:

    • You must make you website a resource. Highlight your knowledge – not just your offerings. The most effective question I’ve used to assess whether your site is supporting this aim is: What reason would an accidental visitor have to bookmark your site?
    • Remember that your web visitors view the world from their perspective – not yours. This means that you need to be careful how your label your site. You may know what “custom services” mean, but it’s a good bet your accidental visitor doesn’t. Next time you view your site, view it through the lens of someone who knows nothing about you.
    • Stop making your visitors work so hard to understand what you do – they can’t. Drop the we-do’s. Your biggest competition isn’t someone (or some company) who claims to do the same things you do, your biggest competition is noise and clutter. You job is to break through the noise. You do that, not by bragging, but by demonstrating that you understand your customers, instead of forcing your customers to understand you. Demonstrate your competence by demonstrating the intimate knowledge you have of your desired visitors.

I realize that it’s a lot easier to develop a website for your “on-purpose” visitors – but the real marketing leverage comes when you turn the accidental visitor into the on-purpose visitor, and then a customer.